Buying a house is one of the most important, and expensive, purchases we can make in our lifetime. It’s where we spend every day and a place that we invest a lot of effort and time in to making a home. For this reason it’s crucial to get it right, so that you’re not stuck with a massive investment that fails to make you and your family truly happy. A study by Which? in 2015 found that the longer people spent viewing a house, the more likely they were to pay below the asking price. So to help you make the most informed decision when viewing to buy, we’ve assembled a few of the top things you should be looking out for before putting your name on the dotted line.

Preparing for viewing a house

There are a lot of things to look out for when you’re viewing to buy. Firstly, look at the house as a building and not as home, to stop you from making an emotional decision. Damp, faulty electrics and ineffective heating systems make everyone’s lives a living hell, but when you own a house it’s a lot harder to move away from the problem.

First of all, make sure you spend at least 20-30 minutes in the property when viewing it, and return for further inspections if you have good feelings. Take photos and take your time thinking about every aspect of the building.

image of couple viewing a house

Before you’ve even attended the viewing, look to Rightmove and Zoopla to get an idea of the area and see when your property was last advertised. Make sure to find out how long the property has been on the market and if it has been reduced. By using www.police.uk you can view any crimes that have occurred in the area and the action taken, which will give you an idea of any problems that may exist.

At the viewing make sure you measure the spaces to see if there is sufficient space for your belongings. The height of the rooms need to be adequate for the tallest person in your family and everyone will need to have enough space to call their own.

A common problem with many properties is damp so make sure your nose isn’t blocked when you go! House sellers will likely have tried to cover up any giveaway signs, such as watermarks and flaky plaster, so try to look out for fresh paint that looks slightly uneven or a faint mouldy smell.

Common problems in houses

When attending a viewing you should be trying to be as critical as possible to make sure you spot any issues the property may have and that the owners may be trying to hide. By making sure you’re aware of the extensive array of issues that can occur, you can prevent any catastrophic realisations further down the line. Condensing these problems into property specific and location specific problems can help you to remember what to look out for:

image of damp in a house

Property problems

Apart from damp, hairline cracks are the obvious indication that something is wrong with a property. Architect Kieran McDonnell says you should “check that doors and windows open easily – if they stick that can be a sign of structural movement. Cracks around bay windows and the corners of doors will need further investigation. Springy floors can mean rotten joists which can be costly to replace.”

Cracks are indicative of structural issues and commonly appear around doors and windows, joins in the wall or, in particularly bad cases, reaching upwards from the bottom of the house from outside. These problems are expensive to fix so make sure you keep an eye out for them. Make sure you find out the age of the roof as this can be an expensive outlay and look for attic accessibility and condition. Overall there are quite a few problems you should be looking out for and these include:

  • Damp
  • Insufficient storage or space
  • Cracks that indicate a weak structure
  • Rotten joists
  • Faulty and incorrectly wired electrics
  • Old or damaged pipes
  • Ineffective heating systems
  • Light switches that fail to light anything
  • Damaged fuse board

image of plane over a house

Location problems

When it comes to issues with the location of your potential home, there’s not much you can do if a problem arises. You should be watching for, and asking the agent about:

  • How much natural light the house receives
  • What direction the house faces
  • Whether the property is underneath a flight path
  • If the property is at the base of a hill then ask about the drainage system and whether it can cope

Final things to ask about include the tax and utilities that the current owners have, as well as connectivity to broadband and mobiles. Whilst at the viewing, it’s a good idea to ask for the house to be silent, so you can listen for noises from outside and see whether your possible future home is sufficiently sound-proofed. No-one wants to hear someone else’s awful taste in music every day!

What you can do

image of couple signing paperwork

Fortunately problems can be fixed and if you’ve fallen in love with your dream home but it comes with an array of glaring issues, then you don’t have to move on. Damp, structural problems and issues with sound-proofing can all be resolved if you feel you can’t live without this house. These costs will, however, be particularly expensive, but discovering these issues before you finalise the paperwork could save you a pretty penny. Issues with the house gives you more leverage to negotiate the asking price, meaning you could get your dream home for much less than you thought.

Being prepared whilst attending viewings and talking to agents can save you plenty of headaches in the future. Move furniture to discover hidden issues, take out a house survey before progressing with the sale and make sure to confirm what land is attached to the property. Asking the seller what’s included with the property, such as curtain poles and garden sheds, will let you know what you may need to buy.

Once you’ve accounted for all these considerations you’ll be better placed to make a decision. Following these guidelines towards house viewing will help you to weed out the white elephants, and make an informed move to your dream home.

Are we missing anything? Let us know in the comments section.